With the weather changing and the light levels decreasing through September it is easy to feel like food growing is coming to an end. But this is definitely not true, there are a list of vegetables that can be seeded now to still get harvests this year, and a whole host of crops that can be sown now for a good head start next year. It's important to be thinking ahead, especially if you would like fresh veg available through the winter and into that "hungry gap" season of Spring before new crops are ready.
Avoiding empty soil in your market garden, allotment or garden has huge benefits too, so these September plantings will help to protect your soil. Bare soil is more susceptible to soil erosion, with heavy downfalls of rain into Autumn and Winter, bare soil has no canopy to protect it and no roots in it to keep its structure. This means that the soil can become compacted by heavy rain, and then less water can penetrate the soil in big downpours. This compaction can lead to flooding, or soil run-off where top soils are washed away and all that hard work building an eco-system of healthy soil is lost.
Also soil that has no plants in it; leads to other microbiological and worm life going elsewhere too. The plants and plant roots have a symbiotic relationship with the other life in our soil, they provide the feed that eachother need. When our soil is bare and has no plant roots / plants in it.. the microbiology of course goes elsewhere where there is "food for it" and then when you come to Spring to plant again the soil isn't as healthy for your plant and it takes a while to "get going on"... normally ending in us using feeds or liquid feeds and ending up in a feeding cycle assuming that our soil isn't nutritious enough.
All of this is to say, fill your beds up with some autumn / winter crops or those that will be ready for Spring and your soil will benefit as much as you will.
Here's what we are sowing this September and how:
There's still time to sow salad leaves and get a crop in the next couple of weeks. With the right selection you can have salads right through the Winter and into Spring. We love to sow a mix of winter lettuce such as "Winter Density" and "Marvel of all Seasons".
Plus a good mix of "asian greens" such as Mizuna, Mibuna, Mustard Leaf, Frills, Pak Choi, Joi Choi and more.
We seed our winter lettuce with the paperpot transplanter for quick and easy transplanting into our polytunnels, or direct seed with the Jang Seeder. It is important to make sure that spacings are not to dense at this time of year as the light levels are lower than through the season.
When planting outdoors it is likely a horticultural fleece will be useful towards the end of September onwards to keep plants protected from potential frosts.
Spinach is a wonderful vegetable to sow now for Spring pickings, especially to help fill the hunger gap time when the stored winter crops have run out and the Spring veg isn't ready yet.
We sow our Spinach direct into well prepared soil beds using the Jang Seeder, but you can also sow directly into shallow drills in well prepared soil or in pots. We recommend covering the spinach seedlings with horticultural fleece again from the end of this month to protect them from the dreaded frosts.
Whilst they won't be ready this year, planting Broad Beans in September or October gives them a great chance to get established ready for next year. They will provide lovely beans in the hungry gap and early Spring next year, so get them in now.
They are quite frost tolerant but if hard frosts or snow are coming, a fleece will help protect them. Our favourite winter variety is Aquadulce which does well with Autumn sowings.
Much like the broad beans, hardy varieties of pea can be planted now to get earlier crops in the Spring. Not all peas will survive though so use hardier varieties like Meteor or check with the seed provider.
Again use horticultural fleece from the end of September onwards to protect them.
There is still time to grow radishes for salads this year, so get them sown in the ground now either outdoors or in polytunnels and keeping enjoying the peppery tastes in your salads. The warm soil and mild conditions that carry on in September are perfect to make sure they are ready for picking this Autumn, but don't leave it too late.
We sow radish directly into evenly raked and prepared beds using the Jang Seeder, we then make sure to keep the soil surface moist to give them the best germination chance.
Turnips can be sown now to pick as golf ball sized "baby veg" in about 6 weeks time and they will be delicious for it. You can direct sow these straight into well prepared and evenly raked beds (we use the Jang Seeder), and the moister coolder conditions will help them thrive.
Garlic and Onions
Garlic and Onions are best overwintered and so the perfect time to plant them is now, they will put on shoots before it gets too cold. And then continue their growth in Spring.
All garlic should be capable of this planting time as frosts are required to split the clove into a bulb for the new season. However we recommend picking a variety of onion that suits overwintering such as Troy or Radar, both are easily available.
Using a dibber we simply push a hole and drop in the clove or onion set... lightly brushing the soil back over the top and watering in.
That's our September sowings sorted, we are excited to have veg to continue into Winter with and have made a start already on next seasons growing.
Are you sowing anything extra? We would love to hear about it... get in touch on social media here.